(WLNS)– Since 1999 the Saturday before Thanksgiving has been designated for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
“A lot of people if they lose somebody to suicide they won’t talk about it, or they pretend that the person died by another cause,” said Vicky Mennare, Mich. Chapter Board Secretary of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Mennare lost her own father to suicide almost 10 years ago. She also lost a friend about 4 years ago.
The holidays can be difficult for anyone whose lost a loved one, which is why she said today is so important.
“We didn’t choose to be in this club. None of us really want to be here today, but we are and we’re here together. We’re able to connect with just about everybody because we’re all going through the same journey,” Mennare said.
The thing that she said can be most difficult when it comes to this specific type of loss, is the stigma that’s associated with it.
“It’s a very different type of loss than say a car accident, or a heart attack,” she said.
She added however, that those conversations are changing.
“Mental health care, mental illness, suicide, it’s all being more talked about. When I say my dad died by suicide people just say, ‘oh I’m so sorry’. The same as if I said my dad died of a heart attack and that is an amazing feeling to know that we are making a difference. We’re normalizing conversations about mental health and mental illness and so that we’re able to have real, open, honest, conversations with people to prevent suicide,” Mennare said.
While today is focused on healing, the AFSP is also focused on prevention.
“Our main mission is to reduce that suicide rate and we do that by connecting and by providing educational supports to anyone and everyone,” said Anne Perry, the foundation’s area director.
The pandemic has forced AFSP to shift most things to virtual platforms, but the goal remains the same. The foundation is working to teach people about the warning signs of suicide and educate the public on how to prevent it from happening, while also protecting themselves.
For anyone who is struggling with mental health, or has a loved one that is, the AFSP wants them to know they’re not alone.
“There is help and there is hope, you just have to reach out,” Mennare said.